On the Clock: Ice cream truck driver popular guy on hot summer days (with photo gallery)
The sun is Orazio “Raz” Maimone’s silent partner.
Both were on the job Wednesday afternoon. The star provided 85 degrees worth of summer heat in the Capital Region. Maimone provided Bomb Pops, Cyclones, Tear Jerkers and about 50 other kinds of flavored ices and cold creams to young clients.
Maimone, 48, is “Mr. Ding-A-Ling” — the ice cream man. Kids know when Raz is on the way to their homes in Niskayuna; his white truck plays the perky “Music Box Dancer” tune during its slow prowls up and down tree-lined streets.
At 2 p.m., Maimone had a small crowd of customers in Hillcrest Village West, an apartment complex off Providence Avenue. Sometimes, it takes a minute or two for customers to make up their minds, and Maimone is happy to point out the menu — a billboard of small ice cream posters — plastered on the side of the truck. During sale times, the ice cream man always stands in the center of the truck, near his bank of coolers. A large rectangular opening — no glass window — allows Maimone to conduct his cash transactions face to face.
Once back in the driver’s seat, Maimone headed to Hillcrest Village East. Not every day is busy.
“A lot of kids have day camps,” he said, dressed in denim shorts, gray T-shirt and sunglasses. “It’s always hit or miss when you go by any neighborhood. There are days when you catch everybody home, and there are days when you just get a few people here and there.”
While the sun is the perfect partner — Maimone doesn’t have to share profits — there are days when it works too hard. “A lot of people don’t want to come out because it’s just too hot,” Maimone said. “And the ice cream is just not going to last.”
On the move
Maimone didn’t find any Popsicle people at Hillcrest East, so he set course for Clifton Park Road, Niskayuna Drive, Arkona Court, Coolidge Place, Regent Street. After seven years on the job, five in Colonie and the past two in Niskayuna, he knows the ice cream game requires patience. Maimone, who lives in Rotterdam and also works as a toll collector for the New York State Thruway, said ice men must also appreciate music. He’ll listen to his truck’s “Music Box Dancer” — other Ding-A-Ling trucks play a jingle that features a woman asking “Hello?” and a quacking duck — from early afternoon through early evening.
“That’s the main thing everybody always asks,” Maimone said. “ ‘How do you live with that music?’ I’m just used to it.”
Although the truck’s music center can play 32 jingles, Maimone sticks with “Dancer.” He believes when people hear the same tune, they’ll know the ice cream man is in the vicinity. The businessman and music lover is also part psychologist. He knows why kids and their parents wait by the street to buy $1 or $2 ice cream treats that can be purchased for less in the supermarket.
“For the adults, it brings back memories,” Maimone said. “For the adults and the kids, it gives them memories.”
At 2:16, Maimone saw two customers. Lindsay DeMania, 9, and her father Rick were looking for ways to beat the heat. Lindsay settled for a green Tear Jerker snow cone.
“Do you have any soda?” asked Rick.
“Yeah!” answered Maimone.
“How about a Diet Pepsi,” he said. “And a Good Humor bar.”
Rick paid $6. Maimone, checking traffic ahead and behind, continued his search for other ice cream screamers. Bad drivers can put the ice cream man into a bad humor.
“We don’t want to be treated like school buses,” Maimone said, aware of traffic laws that prohibit motorists from passing stopped school buses that are picking up or dropping off passengers. “But if you see me stopped, you know there are going to be kids around me. Slow down, that’s all we ask. It’s just common sense.”
At 2:30, Maimone was on Regent Street. The truck, which rides like a tank and is leased from the Mr. Ding-A-Ling corporate office in Latham, is also warm inside. The ice cream gets the air conditioning, not the driver.
Maimone, driving at about 10 miles per hour, looked from side to side. “I’m looking for doors opening, kids screaming out the window,” he said. “Sometimes . . . it’s just kids screaming out the window.”
At 2:35, Maimone passed a woman on the sidewalk carrying a small child. He noticed the woman had placed her hand over the child’s eyes. She didn’t want an ice cream rush from an excited kid. A few minutes later, Maimone waved to a postal worker sitting in his parked truck.
The prime gigs, Maimone said, are times when Mr. Ding-A-Ling is called to day care centers, businesses, recreation centers. “Those are always the best,” Maimone said. “I’m just sitting there, not wasting any gas, just selling ice cream.”
Fan favorites in 2012 include the “Chips Galore” ice cream sandwich. “And the ‘faces,’ the Sponge Bob, ‘Madagascar 3,’ the penguin, you’ve got the Bomb Pops,” Maimone said. “Everyone loves the Bomb Pops.”
Getting his attention
At 2:40, Maimone spotted a small child jumping up and down near Lexington Parkway. In five seconds, there were two more. Jessica Slovak, 6, and friends Mikey Kedik, 5, and Gabriella Kedik, 7, were ready for something cold. Jessica’s mother, Theresa Slovak, provided funds for the Bubble Gum snow cones ordered by Jessica and Mikey, and the Typhoon requested by Gabriella.
Maimone has conducted business with the group before.
“Where have you been?” he asked Theresa.
“We’ve been on vacation,” Theresa responded.
“You’re killing me,” Maimone said, a smile on his face.
Maimone returned to the road. He said Niskayuna officials have asked Mr. Ding-A-Ling to stay off streets like Union Street, Nott Street and Mohawk Road, places with heavy traffic. So he remained on quiet residential streets.
“Sometimes you’ll go six or seven streets without anybody coming out,” Maimone said just before 3 p.m. “You know the next time around they’ll be out. They always come out.”